In Real Life, cities and locations are named after historic events or persons, landmarks, local folklore or other things, that explain their names somewhat. These names change and evolve over the time and are a direct result of the history revolving around them.
In fiction, however, such immense back stories rarely exist, so the writers have to make up names on the spot, and quite often these names lack a certain creativity.
Instead of genuine, unique names, we get locations with names consisting of just a noun and a variation of City behind them, that are named after the species that inhabits it, after nearby landmarks, or the main purpose they serve. In other words, Exactly What It Says On The Sign.
Sometimes, the writer tries to conceal it a bit, with names that are puns on plot points or characters, or the translation thereof in a foreign language.
Note: Not every city that has a name ending in City is an example of this trope. Even if the name appears to be unimaginative, if it is justified or explained by the backstory, it is not an example of this trope.
- Paradigm City in The Big O.
- Fullmetal Alchemist. Most of the action happens in Central City and East City, and it also has a North, West and South City. Justified with Brotherhood and the manga since the country is run by an inhuman creature that doesn't really care too much about the country itself.
- Pretty much every town or city in Pokémon.
- Dragon Ball Z has North City, South City, and so on. Eventually one of them gets wiped out by Cell and is rebuilt as Satan City (named after professional wrestler-turned-world's strongest man Mr. Satan/Hercule).
- Many of the islands in One Piece get this treatment, both the manga and the anime, with Alabasta, a desert kingdom, lying on Sandy Island, and Hand Island. Also, Marine HQ originally laid on the island of Marineford, which is mostly a giant fortified Marine base.
- Bubblegumpur from Simple Samosa is so named because it is made entirely out of bubblegum.
- The DCU: Big City, Central City, Coast City, Gay City, Gorilla City (in Africa, and Exactly What It Says on the Tin), Happy Harbour, Keystone City, Midway City and Opal City, Star City and Smallville. Metropolis has a name that just means "City".
- In Love and Capes the cities are based on real ones and named after common traits. Deco City is Chicago for the many Art Deco buildings that are there. Chronopolis is New York City, for its ubiquitous clock towers. Amazonia has her home in Liberty City, which is probably Washington, D.C. (since that's Wonder Woman's home in America).
- Warren Ellis' Ignition City, which is actually a spaceport.
- Hondo City covers most of Japan in the Judge Dredd 2000 AD comic series (and the Judge Dredd Magazine strip Shimura in particular). And of course, Mega City One, but that was properly intentional.
- Golden City in Dark Horse Comics.
- Astro City is both the Comic Book series and its main setting. Justified in that the city was originally Romeyn Falls, but was later renamed to honor the superhero Astro-Naut when he died saving it.
- Neopolis from Alan Moore's Top 10 simply means New (Neo) City (polis). Of course, the same can be said of real life Naples (hence the adjective Neapolitan).
- Duckburg, Calisota in the Disney Ducks Comic Universe, originally named so by Carl Barks.
- Similarly, in the 1990s, Mickey's hometown was given the name Mouseton and has managed to keep that name since then (except when Mickey apparently lives in Duckburg).
- And the French names are worse: The cities are named after the main characters (Mickeyville, Donaldville), which is inexplicable in-story.
- Darkwing Duck lives in St. Canard (French for "duck").
- Numerous examples in British Comics. Beanotown the main setting from The Beano, Dandytown the main setting from The Dandy, Cactusville Desperate Dan's wild west hometown and Whizztown home of none other than Billy Whizz.
- Ashes of the Past has this exchange:
Brock: That's Remoraid Mountain. It's got Remoraid Lake on top of it, it's near the Remoraidian Ruins which used to be inhabited by the ancient people called the Remoraidians, and you'll never guess what Pokemon are up there.Ash: Octillery.Brock: Probably.
- In Wishing Well, Queen Sunsparkle is questioned on the weird name of Ponyville. Sunsparkle thinks it's silly too, but it's what her mother named the area.
- Megamind takes place in Metro City.
- The Incredibles live in Metroville (a Shout-Out to Superman — the name's a portmanteau of Metropolis and Smallville). Judging by the name of the bank, the opening scene takes place in Municiberg.
- Monsters, Inc. takes place in Monstropolis, a city full of monsters. Immediately after naming it while imitating a morning radio broadcast, Mike describes it, essentially translating "Monstropolis" into plain English.
Mike: Well good morning, Monstropolis. It's now five after the hour of six AM in the big monster city.
- The Matrix: Supplemental material reveal that the entire action of the Trilogy is taking place in a certain "Mega City". Also, when Neo is being interrogated by Agent Smith, his birthplace is listed as "Capitol City". Possibly justified by the Matrix being, you know, not real and all.
- Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End: The Brethren Court meets in the town of Shipwreck, in Shipwreck Cove, on Shipwreck Island. As one might imagine, it's easy for a ship to run aground there, and the town is made up of dozens of foundered ships. Lampshaded when Jack comments on the lack of imagination in Pirate naming conventions.
Jack: For all that pirates are clever cobs, we are an unimaginative lot when it comes to naming things.
Jack: I once sailed with a geezer lost both of his arms and part of his eye.
Gibbs: And what'd you call him?
- Dark City in the film of the same name. It's dark. But not necessarily the actual name of the city (if indeed it has one... or indeed only one).
- Bartertown in Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome. Justified in that it's supposed to have been founded pretty recently.
- The Town in Back to the Future is named Hill Valley.
- Pleasantville, in the film of the same name.
- King Kong: Skull Island, which is its shape.
- Emerald City in The Wonderful Wizard of Oz.
- Honor Harrington has Landing City, as in "the place where the first colonist's shuttle landed", as the capital of Manticore. Helen Zilwiki lampshades it in Storm from the Shadows.
- It's noted in Crown of Slaves that Landing is the most popular name for the capital.
- Clifford the Big Red Dog by Norman Bridwell takes place on Bridwell Island.
- Laketown and Hobbiton in The Hobbit.
- Whenever Robert A. Heinlein placed a colony on the Moon, it was called Luna City. (The Chinese colony in The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress was called "Hong Kong Luna".)
- In Fattypuffs and Thinifers, the capital of Fattypuff is Fattyborough, and the capital of Thinifer is Thiniville. This is given a Lampshade Hanging by Terry, who has been learning the dissimilarly-named capitals of Real Life countries.
- In The Intercontinental Union of Disgusting Characters, the main world is called Central Earth. The main city on Central Earth is called "Town."
- In Larry Niven's Known Space series, some cities have a bit of this. The main city on Jinx (in the Sirius system) appears to be Sirius City, and the name of the Kzinti homeworld in their language translates to "Kzinhome." There are also the worlds Plateau and Canyon, named after their most distinctive features (and only habitable locations; the one for Plateau is actually called Mount Lookitthat, but it is a plateau, or more properly a mesa). There's also Crashlanding City, capital of We Made It (natives of which planet are called crashlanders).
- In The Emperor of Nihon-Ja protagonists encounter a village in the woods named "village in the woods" in nihonese, and one that translates "lakeside village" - guess what's nearby. Emperor implies that it's a naming convention for most of smaller settlements in Nihon-Ja.
- The protagonist of Boogie Up The River: One Man and His Dog to the Source of the Thames briefly gets it into his head that the towns of Oxford, Muleford and Swinford got their names from the fact that people used to drive herds of oxen, mules and swine across a river ford in or very near them. Then he reaches Duxford, and is forced to reevaluate.
- Bay City in Another World
- Battlestar Galactica: Caprica City.
- The eponymous town of LazyTown.
- Brüteville in "Bullet In The Face". It doesn't help that almost everyone shown has tried to kill someone.
- Bear City in the Saturday Night Live recurring filmed sketch of the same name.
Mayor: And it is not called "Skull" Island. It is pronounced, "Skool" Island. It is a local word.Anchor: What does it mean?Mayor: Head bone.
- A bit done after the release of King Kong (see Film above) on Weekend Update had the mayor of Skull Island descrying the way his island is described.
- Lampshaded in an episode of Grimm, but with a Real Life city this time, when Sean Renard's half-brother Eric visits Portland. He concludes that "Portland" must be an unimaginative Line-of-Sight Name.
- Bleak Expectations: Poverty St. Mary (in the constituency of Dreadfulness North). As might be surmised, most of the inhabitants are incredibly poor, due to over-taxation. The local reverend tries to keep them alive via holding Holy Eucharist eighty-seven times a day, but it's sort of failed completely, to the extent that he and his daughter are the only people there still alive.
- And Moory-on-the-Moor, by the Moory-Mory-More Moor. It's a moor.
- Greyhawk City (a.k.a. the Free City of Greyhawk) in the Dungeons & Dragons Greyhawk setting.
- Night City is the default setting for R. Talsorian Games' Cyberpunk 2020 game.
- Freedom City in Mutants & Masterminds.
- Millenium City in Champions.
- How about Warhammer's Skavenblight? Not that the Skaven actually exist, of course...
- River City in The Music Man.
- Liberty City and Vice City in the Grand Theft Auto series.
- Empire Bay in Mafia II.
- Raccoon City in the Resident Evil series.
- Several EA Sports video-games take place in the same fictional city of Bay City.
- Pacific City in Crackdown
- Patriot City in Freedom Force games.
- The MMORPG City of Heroes is set in "Paragon City".
- Kingdom Hearts: Chain of Memories: Castle Oblivion. It's dangerous.
- Rivet City in Fallout 3
- To an extent Ravenholm and City 17 in Half-Life 2, though the latter is justified, since human city names have been reduced to numbers by the Combine rulers.
- The Elder Scrolls
- The mining city of Caldera is built in/near a volcanic caldera.
- Vivec is the Egopolis of the Tribunal deity Vivec, who resides in the city's temple.
- Balmora and Sadrith Mora are this in-universe, if you are familiar with the Dunmeri language or its predecessor language, Aldmeris. "Bal" means "stone", while "Sadrith" means "mushroom". Mora means "forest". They mean, fittingly, "Stone Forest" and "Mushroom Forest", respectively.
- Oblivion has the Imperial City, capital of the Empire. Even before the empires of men, it was the seat of the Ayleid Empire.
- Happens all over the place in Skyrim. Winterhold (it's a hold where it is really cold), Riverwood (built on a river running through the woods), Whiterun (built on running river), Dragon's Bridge (built around an ancient bridge with dragon decor)...the list goes on...
- inFAMOUS takes place in Empire City.
- Similar to the French Disney comic example, Donkey Kong's home island is named Donkey Kong Island. It has also gone by the names Kongoland (in Captain N: The Game Master), Kongo Bongo Island (in the DKC cartoon), and Kong Isle (in the Donkey Kong 64 manual).
- Super Mario Bros.: The Mushroom Kingdom.
- In the WarCraft series, both games and novels (those set prior to WoW), the capital city of Lordaeron is known far and wide as... Capital City.
- The main city of Kingdom of Loathing is called Seaside Town. Three guesses what major geographic feature is nearby. There's also Bordertown (located near The Border, south of which is South Of The Border) and Forest Village (in the forest), plus the clan dungeon, Hobopolis (which is, of course, full of hobos) and Crimbo Town (which only appears during the Crimbo season).
- Touhou has, among other things, the Human Village, the only location on the map that is truly safe for human residents.
- Goron City, from The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, is, well, precisely that.
- Final Fantasy Mystic Quest has Foresta, Aquaria, Fireburg, and Windia—guess which crystal corresponds to each town?
- Panau City, the capital of the micro-state of Panau, in Just Cause 2.
- The Sims 2 has Pleasantview (a seemingly idyllic town in reference to Pleasantville), Strangetown (a town with mad scientists, mysterious murders and an abundance of space aliens) and Veronaville (a town based on Romeo and Juliet, as well as some of Shakespeare's other plays).
- In The Order of the Stick, nearly everything is named in this fashion deliberately, as part of its pastiche of the Standard Fantasy Setting. Prominent examples include Greysky City, Azure City, and Cliffport, while geographical features have such names as Wooden Forest, Sunken Valley, and the Pinnacle Mountains (the tallest of which is Zenith Peak).
- In Hector's World, the site has two places: Information Island; an island of information, and Silicon Deep; an area in the deep sea where creatures use computers powered by silicon chips.
- St. Canard (literally "St. Duck") from Darkwing Duck.
- Timmy Turner of The Fairly Oddparents lives in Dimmsdale, which is a town over from Brightburg. Justified in that the town was named after Dale Dimm.
- Fish City in Fish Police. One wonders how they name all their other cities, if they exist.
- Similarly, the Christmas special Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer takes place in Cityville.
- Kim Possible lives in Middleton, which is between Upperton and Lowerton.
- My Little Pony:
- My Little Pony G3 and the G3.5 specials take place in Ponyville, a town populated by anthropomorphic ponies.
- My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic has its own version of Ponyville. Series creator Lauren Faust originally wanted it to take place in Fillydelphia, but she got the Executive Veto on that idea. Fillydelphia and similarly equine-pun-on-real-place names note are the rule. For bonus points, Ponyville is located in the kingdom of Equestria.
- Ponyville dates back to G1's My Little Pony Tales.
- The Powerpuff Girls lampshades this with the City of Townsville and the Town of Citysville. Also the Town of Farmsville.
- In A Pup Named Scooby-Doo, the gang lives in a town named Coolsville.
- One episode of What's New, Scooby-Doo? featured the gang going to Munchville, Ohio. That town is known as the location of several snack factories, including the Scooby Snack factory, which the gang got to visit as a prize for winning a contest.
- The Simpsons: The capital of the state Springfield is in is named Capital (or sometimes Capitol) City.
- The 2009 incarnation of Strawberry Shortcake lives in Berry Bitty City.
- Wharf City in Sushi Pack.
- Steven Universe is set in Beach City, which is on the beach, though it's nowhere near large enough to be a city. A vaguely described disaster happened in a nearby placed called Ocean Town. Both are apparently named after Ocean City, Maryland (which isn't a city either), one of the places Beach City is based on.
- The Tick's The City. Supposedly a mistranslation of its original French name, "Les Citrons".
- Autobot City in Transformers.
- The Super Hero Squad Show has Super Hero City and Villainville, which are right next door to each other.
- Planet Rabbit from Wanda and the Alien, which is Wanda's home planet.
- CatDog: The characters live in Nearburg, a town next to Farburg.
- In Japan and probably China. Kyoto: capital city. Tokyo: Eastern capital. Beijing: the characters mean "North Capital" (as the opposite to Nanjing, "Southern capital"). May be because Chinese characters force you to have meaningful names, while phonetic alphabets allow a place name's meaning to get lost once the pronunciation changes.
- Quite a few towns in America are named in this manner, due to names often literally being invented within the past 200 years using Line-Of-Sight Naming while filling out the paperwork to formally register a settlement. Hence places like Stone City, Iowa (founded as a company town for a quarry) and Farmington, Arkansas (at naming, an agricultural community).
- "State" Cities are also common in America: there's Indianapolis, capital of Indiana; Oklahoma City, capital of Okalhoma, and numerous others. This can lead to some strangeness, however: one of the two municipalities named Kansas City is in mostly in Missourinote and the other Kansas City is a small town in Oregon, apparently named by settlers proud to be from Kansas.
- In fact, there is a City of Townsville in Australia.
- Non-city examples include Australia's westernmost state, called Western Australia, and the southern state South Australia. Of Australia's two territories, the one to the north is called... well, the Northern Territory and the other, founded to Take a Third Option in arguments over where the Capital should go is called the Australian Capital Territory. Down Under, we're not known for our creativity with names.
- Also, Australia itself as "australis" means "southern" in Latin.
- Also in the greater Los Angeles area are the cities of Commerce and Industry. Three guesses what happens in those cities.
- Further south (it's actually a suburb of San Diego, not LA) is Oceanside. There's also a neighborhood in San Diego proper named Pacific Beach. You may be able to figure out which prominent geographical feature it's near.
- An interesting example is the Transoxania region in Central Asia because it has the same meaning in different languages apparently independently. In Arabic it is Mal Wara Al-Nahr or "What is beyond the (Oxus) river". Westerners call it the Transoxania, which of course means, "What is beyond the Oxus".
- Battery Park, NY is a place where the US army mounted its artillery at one time.
- Similarly, Battery Point in Hobart, Tasmania, Australia which is located between the bulk of Hobart and the suburb of Sandy Bay. There's a lot of these around the world.
- Arizona's Kofa Mountains — named for the nearby King of Arizona mine — are marked on early maps as the "S. H. Mountains". This sobriquet was derived from a series of blocky stone slabs that, to the eyes of white settlers, resembled sanitary facilities dating from before the installation of plumbing. Yeah. The Shit House Mountains.
- Milwaukee, as famously pointed out by Wayne's World by Alice Cooper, is derived from a Potowatominote word meaning "good land," although some translations have it as "fine land" or "rich beautiful land."
- Most city-states and microstates fall under this (The capital of The Vatican being Vatican City, the capital of San Marino being San Marino, the capital of Andorra being Andorra la Vella ("Old Andorra"), and so forth.) Some aversions of this are the capital of Liechtenstein being Vaduz and of Brunei being Bandar seri Begawan. This isn't limited to city-states and micro-states though, some examples of non-city-states and non-microstates with these kind of capitals being Kuwait's Kuwait City, and Pakistan's Islamabad. (Essentially "Muslim City")
- An ancient Briton community on a particular hill was named "Bree", Celtic for "hill". When the Saxons conquered it, they called it "Breedon", adding the Saxon suffix "-don" which means "hill". The community is now called "Breedon on the Hill", which, yes, means "Hill-Hill on the Hill".
- There is, in fact, a city called Humansville. It was named not for its inhabitants, but for its founder, James Human.
- In Colorado, US, the Denver metro is home to Commerce City, which isn't such a source of commerce these days, but is still a hub for transportation networks. Further south in Colorado Springs is a district colloquially called "Motor City," because of its high concentration of car dealerships. Even further south is Pueblo, nicknamed "Steel City" because of the enormous steel plant there.